Sunday, October 25, 2009

halloween II

I was walking home after taking the C train back from Harlem, along Central Park West (I'm just bragging about how sassy my travels across the city have become, in spite of H's quip that my utter lack of a sense of direction prevents me from finding my way round our own house). Anyway . . . on my adventurous travels I chanced upon this really cool building facade. Well, it's kinda creepy, actually, as the spider is all hairy and furry and the bats' bared teeth are as honed and filed as those of a wild man from Papua New Guinea. But as I say, people take Halloween pretty seriously.

So seriously, in fact, that a dummy slumped over patio furniture on a man's balcony in

Los Angeles made for a particularly cunning Halloween display. It remained undisturbed and undiscovered for five days until guys from the sheriff's office paid a visit. They found the real body of a man who'd been shot through the head. Some people go to great lengths, it seems. . .

Saturday, October 24, 2009

celebrity spotting


I've just been getting into the new TV series, The Good Wife, with Julianna Margulies and Chris Noth (Sex and the City) - about a state attorney's wife who faces public humiliation when her husband is caught on tape with a hooker and at the same time is arrested for misuse of public funds. Interestingly, the script was written before the likes of Bernie Madoff and various prominent US politicians were caught and loudly lambasted in the media for various comparable transgressions, so someone had their finger on the pulse. . .

To cut a long story short, I was jogging a couple of circuits through luminous lemon-yellow foliage round the Reservoir yesterday when I came face to face with Matt Czuchry (one newspaper reporter compared him to a young James Spader, which is spot-on), who plays a baby-faced lawyer on the TV show. South Africans may know him from The Gilmore Girls and Friday Night Lights.

Matt was ambling along the path with a few friends and they'd stopped to take a photograph. As I passed him, we made direct eye contact. I'm getting quite good at this celebrity thang, methinks. . .
Photo: Mark Liddell/The CW

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

of ghouls and skulls, black cats and witches



Halloween is a serious business here. Deadly serious … as in giant images of skulls on shop entrance doors while skeletons, black cats and toothless witches leer from storefront windows. Everywhere spiderwebs are strung from ceilings and draped across doorways. There are puppets, maquettes, stickers and decals, and ghoulish fancy-dress costumes and masks piled up in drugstores (strange source for Halloween paraphernalia, but then drugstores here are more Spar and Shoprite than pharmacy). Inside the stores, entire shelves are taken up by electric-orange candy and chocolates, positively glowing for the opportunity to be Tricked or Treated. Even the TV crime dramas are tangled up in Halloween-style murders and mysteries that have to be carefully unravelled.

Yes, it’s the downward spiral … After Halloween is Thanksgiving and then it’s Christmas. I’m spooked. (Which is what I’m meant to be at this time of year, but anyway…)

Fall has whirled in on an updraft of spiralling autumn leaves … way too fast. When I hang out of our kitchen window to gaze down onto Broadway, I see leaves of cinnamon, mustard and burnt sienna. The trees of the rooftop gardens are yellowing and thinning, many are leafless, their slight pliable stems bending in the icy wind. Today I ran across a multicoloured carpet of leaves in autumn hues, past clustered branches of flaming orange and red berries. Not long ago, these branches staggered under the weight of spring blossoms. This morning it was a bracing 8ºC! Cold enough for leggings, gloves and a thermal jacket on the run.

We have almost come full circle on our new arrival in this big city.

Monday, October 12, 2009

new york's subtleties


I’m just loving how the subtler nuances of living in New York are getting under my skin … giving me a chance to peek through the glam, pacy, brash exterior to a more real, life-centred core.
For example, we have mosquitoes in New York. And tiny little jumping spiders. There are ladybirds … lots of them. We have a minor infestation here on the 15th floor – tiny russet-yellow bodies hurtling through our windows and crawling all over our ceiling.

I see the moon in Manhattan. I’ve watched a giant melon moon hang pendulously over lofty penthouses. Yesterday a gibbous moon tilted itself perfectly, mid-pane, through our lounge window. Another day, it rose ahead of us, plump and full, between a pair of skyscrapers.

Then there’s the northern mockingbird that warbles, coos and twitters melodiously as it sits atop a water tower outside our dining nook window. That same perch is often taken up by an American kestrel, which balances on the pinnacle of the tower, stretching out one clawed foot in a balletic manoeuvre while splaying the feathers of streaked and spotted wings.

One morning a red-tailed hawk was harassed in mid-air by a crow – right in front of our apartment windows! The birds dipped, arched and swooped in circles before me while I watched slack-jawed at the spectacle amidst concrete, steel and glass.

Finally, through powerful binoculars I’ve watched a pair of peregrine falcons nesting on the top of a glass-faceted tower that rears into the sky a little way up Broadway. They sit on the railings surveying their world from heights that only helicopters scale, sometimes dark and shadowy outlines, sometimes blinding white as the light reflects off their pale chests. I marvel at the juxtaposition of images: airbuses climbing into the sky beyond the skyscraper from La Guardia airport, the roof watertower – iconic image of NY, a giant crane/hoist, a satellite dish. And a pair of peregrine falcons sitting on the railing.
[Photo: Getty in NY Times]

my new 4x4 book!


I’m happy … and I’m sad…
Happy, because finally, after twelve months of travelling and writing, and six months of editing, designing and printing, my new 4x4 book has been published. (For any American readers I may be lucky to have ensnared with my blogging machinations, please read: SUV!)

Sad, because H. and our very good travelling friend K. took such beautiful, luminous, colour-saturated photographs … and my designer-associate T. did such a MARVELLOUS, classy job of the layout … but in the end the actual photographic reproduction has left much to be desired. I’m not going to go on about it, the pictures are back with the repro house being “fixed” in time for the first reprint (they must be confident it’s going to need another run off the presses!).
And the reviews so far are reassuring (… “we don’t want to be responsible for your becoming addicted … you’re going to become addicted…”; “Is it worth buying? Definitely.”).

So … the irony of our little traveller threesome driving the length and breadth (not quite but almost) of South Africa and Namibia in two Freelanders, in the span of only a year, before hot-footing it to New York (without knowing that that was what we were going to do…) is too much of a jab in the ribs to be shrugged off.

We got to sleep beneath star-encrusted skies, breathe in the unsullied air of giant desert and rock-scapes, mingle with the wildest of wildlife and see large-winged raptors planing metres away. (And all with a hot shower, flushing loo and frosty beer or glass of chardonnay at the end of each day!) Those were the criteria … read the book …

And now the memories are all captured and printed and bound in something we can hold in our hands and endlessly riffle through. So I can stand in my New York glass cage suspended over Broadway and its sirens and taxis and flashing blue lights, and dream of Africa …

P.S. If you’re quick enough, http://www.mapstudio.co.za/ is offering a once-off special.
No pressure.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

celebrity spotting




It's such a rush being in New York! Today I got onto the bus right behind Broadway and movie actress Joan Allen. Wearing skinny jeans and not a scrap of makeup, it was her high angular cheekbones that gave her away (to me, anyway). She plonked herself down in the seat right in front of me, so I got to stare at the back of her streaked blonde hair all the way across Central Park. And I know it really was her after a woman came up to Joan before stepping off the bus to congratulate her on some performance of hers, which Joan graciously acknowledged.

It's amazing how cool most New Yorkers are when they spot someone famous. They try very hard not to act like breathless, silly teenagers (unless they're the paparazzi, of course. . .). In a way, it's a nice appreciation of someone else's space.

South Africans will know her mainly from the Bourne Ultimatum and Bourne Supremacy movies, as well as the Ice Storm. But she also gave the most amazing performance as an embittered, unforgiving mother in a movie I can't for the life of me remember the name of.